“Why would I want to go anywhere? I’m already here.” The late Vermont poet David Budbill uses that quote from horticulturalist Lewis Hill to introduce his poem, “Reply to My Peripatetic Friends,” included in the anthology, “Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry.”
“I go to the waterfall / and listen to the water fall,” Budbill writes. “I sit on a rock / and stare at the sky. / I watch my self disappear / into the world around me”
As much as many of us like to travel, Budbill’s poem is a reminder of the value of living in the moment and appreciating where we are. Living in the moment and combination living in Vermont are a fine—one that keeps many of us here, and that attracts and inspires poets and artists of all kinds.
Every April, as we transition from mud season to spring and our pent-ups need to spend more time outdoors and to see more people kicks in, National Poetry Month provides us with motivation to reflect on our lives and the world around us, to shed our parkas and boots, and to shake off any remaining lethargy of winter.
In Montpelier, in many of the same downtown windows where hundreds of red hearts magically appeared on Valentine’s Day, hundreds of poems spring up, drawing us to a stop so we can read “Adorable,” “Such Sweet Sorrow,” “A Bowl of Wild” or “Hidden For So Long.” Or maybe, “A Love Letter to the World” or “Growing Up in a Vermont Town” catches our eye.
The 250 poems are part of PoemCity, the Kellogg-Hubbard Library’s annual, month-long celebration of poetry. On its website, the library has a list, alphabetized by the poet’s name, giving the titles of poems and where they are posted, and — new this year — soon all the poems will also be available there in pdf.
There are about 20 programs in all, including poetry readings and poetry-writing workshops. There are programs that combine music and the spoken word and a discussion of the poetry of Langston Hughes. Among the ongoing events, there are four locations with exhibits that combine poetry and art, and on Easter morning, there is a hunt for eggs with poems inside.
Lest anyone still hold the outdated view that poetry is quiet and stuffy, at the Lost Nation Theater, Vermont Poetry Slam Champion Geof Hewitt hosts the All Ages Anything Goes Slam! “Poets, acoustic musicians, jugglers, and anyone else with special talents” is invited to take a turn on stage. Those who have been to anything with Hewitt running the show, know that everyone is guaranteed to have a good time.
Michelle Singer, the library’s adult programs coordinator, said she is working with Montpelier Alive to set up a poems-and-photography exhibit in which poems will be overlaid on photos and then projected on a window of the former Bailey Road storefront at 44 Main St .
While PoemCity, which the Kellogg-Hubbard has sponsored for more than a decade and which is the state’s largest such event, Randolph and St. Johnsbury are among the communities offering special programming. PoemTown/Randolph has several poetry events — including an open mic — and is posting over 100 poems around town. Those poems will be published in an anthology later in April.
Building on the theme of Up from the Roots, PoemTown/St. Johnsbury has a participatory, community “poem project inspired by the magnetic poetry game popularized on household refrigerators.” The project will culminate in a music and poetry event with “poet, jazz scholar, teacher, and former VPR host Reuben Jackson.”
The Vermont Humanities Council — in partnership with public libraries in Brattleboro, Montpelier, Norwich, Rutland and St. Johnsbury — is offering five poetry programs as part of its First Wednesdays series. Two are in-person events: What Is Ethnographic Poetry? at Rutland Free Library, and The Poetics of Girlhood and Womanhood in America at Brattleboro’s Brooks Memorial Library. The other events are digital.
While Robert Frost is the most famous poet with Vermont connections, librarians and booksellers can recommend dozens more. “Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry,” the book from which I quoted above, contains a sampling of the work of almost 100 Vermont poets.
Throughout the year, the Poetry Society of Vermont offers readings and opportunities for poets to meet other poets and to workshop poems. It publishes “The Mountain Troubadour,” an annual journal of juried works, and sponsors several poetry contests.
Many local libraries have one or more special poetry events during April. Those, like all the events and opportunities above, can be Googled.
Robert Frost said, “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” We can all use more of both, and Vermont has plenty of poets and poetry events to help us along.
Tom McKone lives in Montpelier and is a former English teacher, principal and library administrator.